January 9th, 2022

baptismal font

 

The Baptism of the Lord 2022

Two weeks ago, we enjoyed the presence of the newborn baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Now, only a few days later we quickly move to the public life of Jesus, leaving out the years of His growing up. This quite long period of Jesus’ life – about 30 years – is described by all the Evangelists very briefly, just in one sentence: Then Jesus went with Joseph and Mary to Nazareth and obeyed them. And nothing more! Nothing about his growing up, maturing, playing and learning with his peers and friends. Today the liturgy shows us a completely different scene, leading us from Bethlehem straight to the River Jordan – that is – to the place where Jesus was baptised. Let us see that – like the whole childhood of Jesus – His baptism as well is mentioned very briefly. The Evangelist Luke described it in the following way: Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. Saint Luke did not explain why Jesus was baptised by John, but instead he explained to us something much more important – what the true identity of the Master of Nazareth was. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.

All theologians and biblical scholars agree that Baptism was a turning point in the life of Jesus. Until then He was only a modest and probably not very popular carpenter in Nazareth, like St Joseph and many others, but from that particular moment, He began his ministry as a powerful preacher of the Kingdom of God who worked miracles, who healed the crippled and sick, who was gaining more and more popularity among the crowds. Baptism is also a very significant point in our lives. Through this sacrament – that probably took place many years ago – we have started a new life; we have entered the community of the Church. And I think it’s worth remembering that baptism is not only a symbolic rite that happened to us in the past, an event recorded by photos and certificates and registered in the parish records, but it is above all an incredible encounter with God, that shapes and influences our whole life from the very beginning. Sometimes we don’t realize it, but on that day and on that particular moment, God said to each one of us exactly the same words as we heard in the Gospel: You are my son – or – you are my daughter, the Beloved, my favour rests on you. And this is something we should be very proud of. Perhaps there are many celebrations, anniversaries and jubilees in our lives that we remember and celebrate more or less solemnly with our loved ones. For example, we celebrate our birthdays, wedding anniversaries or anniversaries of priestly ordination. But let us have a little think for a moment: Do we know the exact date of our baptism? Do we know when and where it happened? Do we remember the anniversary of our christening? And most importantly: Are we grateful to God for our parents, our godparents, catechists and all those who helped us to enter into this wonderful relationship with the Holy Trinity?

Jesus was baptised by John although he didn’t need to have been, but we know that what happened then on the banks of the Jordan was above all a symbol of his solidarity with every human being including each one of us. Jesus asked John for baptism, because He wanted to be with us at every moment of our life, in our moments of weakness and in our moments of strength, in our moments of happiness and in our moments of sadness. And He still wants to be with us in our repentance and whenever we decide to change our life and return to God. One thing is for sure, Jesus received baptism not because he had committed any evil or because He had disobeyed or offended his Father in any way. No, He didn’t need to repent. Yet, Jesus stood before John together with many sinful people, so that – through this symbolic rite of purification – He would set a good example and show us all the right and the only way to happiness.

Maybe this day and this feast of the Lord’s baptism – which we celebrate every year shortly after Christmas – gives us a good occasion and opportunity to remember the date of our baptism. Maybe it is worth to find old photographs and remind ourselves of the people who were with us on that special day. And finally at the end of my reflection I would like to share with you something personal. Well… time goes very quickly, and this year on the 12th April – shortly after my birthday – I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of my baptism. And I’m sure it will be a very special day for me and for my family as well, and I will certainly phone and talk to my parents just to express my gratitude to them for sharing their faith with me, for entrusting me to God, and for making me His beloved son. Maybe some of us were not baptised in St Edward’s church and today we cannot look sentimentally at the baptismal font that witnessed our baptism ceremony. Maybe our parents and godparents have passed away and we cannot talk to them just to express our gratitude. But today we can all pray for them, giving thanks to God for this special sacrament and for this special day in our life, for our family, for the priest or deacon and whoever helped us to become children of God.

May this feast which we celebrate every year shortly after Christmas remind us that we too are the Beloved children of God – each one of us – and let us be appreciative and proud of this.

Fr Gregory